On habits


Last week, I tried to inculcate some small habits. Every morning when I woke up, I’d rub my legs with the endlessly uncomfortable Stick, to reduce knots in my muscles. When I went to the shower, I’d do ten squats to strengthen my legs, and after breakfast, I’d speak some Spanish to our daughter.
The Stick has been the easiest to, well, stick with. The simple reason for this is that I’ve laid it on the bed next to me, so it’s ready to hand when I wake up. Previously, it would be somewhere in the apartment, perhaps stuffed down the sofa to avoid La Serpiente Negra trying to eat it, and it would never be available at the perfect opportunity. Plus it can be a little bit uncomfortable, so any extra disincentive made it easy to avoid.

The squats – well, I remember to do them when I get to the shower, but it feels really unnatural, rather than something that it makes sense to do when I get in there. Perhaps this will continue, perhaps not.

The Spanish: difficult. I think I need a different cue to keep me honest on this.

There have been other small wins. I put my cholesterol pills on my pillow, so I always remember to take them. The only flaw is that as our daughter takes over more and more of the apartment, shutting us out from our bedroom, it’s less and less clear where I will lay my head, and therefore whether the pills should be on the bed in the spare room, or closer to hand for those times when I have to sleep on the sofa because my wife is hogging the spare bed because our daughter is mastering the master bedroom.

I now have a routine that involves getting up and remembering to turn on the steriliser for my wife. It doesn’t quite flow as well as it should: I get up, I go to the toilet, I turn on the steriliser, I remember I should have a go with the Stick, I go back to the bedroom, I Stick myself. But over time I’m consistent in doing those things, even if not always in the right order.

When I see our daughter, I sing the Spanish morning song we have for her. Perhaps after doing this I should throw her in the air five times to get better at aerobic and anaerobic fitness. It’s all about consistency.

I don’t have as good a set of habits in the evening; I get home, I sit around with my brain melting out my ears, and then I go to bed. Somewhere along the way I remember to write this blog, but I’m not reading quite as much as I want to, and I’m certainly not writing enough. What this makes me realise is that going out on a weeknight is a really bad idea right now: not only does it mean I stay up too late and don’t have so much energy the next day, but it breaks up lots of other opportunities to do things regularly, and it means I don’t have as much time to spend with my wife. Maybe if I went to a pub quiz every night, so it became standard operating practice, that would help.

(On the other hand, I do go out for a run at least one evening every week, but that feels more tied to my identity than going to the pub. And such puritanical devotion to fitness is an easier sell to my spouse than drinking pints of warm lager while debating trivia.) While the wife’s away, I’m going to up my training to two nights a week, which may counteract the diet of potato crisps that will sustain me through the summer. That’s a habit we can all get behind.


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